A national campaign to increase HIV testing among groups most affected in the UK is taking place in Manchester next week for World AIDS day.
The LGBT Foundation are targeting groups that are most affected by HIV. Gay and bisexual men, and black African people are those who continually carry a stigma of HIV in the UK.
With an increase over the last decade in young men being affected by HIV, there are as many as 1 in 5 gay and bisexual men are living with the disease in major cities such as Manchester.
It is likely that many people are unaware they are living with it.
Jawad Mahboob, LGBT Foundation, health & wellbeing co-ordinator, told MM: “If you are unaware you have HIV it is a danger as they are spreading HIV to other people, they are not accessing treatment and reducing their life.
“It is important for everyone to test so they are aware of their status.”
The LGBT Foundation are hosting activities throughout Greater Manchester, including a photo collage of people who are sharing their messages about the importance of testing.
The hashtag #ImTesting is being used by councillors, chief executives, service users and volunteers to promote the campaign and encourage others to be open about getting tested.
The LGBT Foundation found that 68% of those in Greater Manchester who have HIV contracted it from drug use.
Jawad, said: “The increase across the UK with chem-sex in gay and bi men, who arrange sex parties but use drugs to enhance activity, is not so common in Manchester.
“But it is on the rise. And we are targeting work around this.”
For those who are worried about being tested in a clinic, the LGBT Foundation are aiming to have testing take place in more comfortable surroundings, such as bars and pubs.
Jawad, said: “We have a regular clinic every Monday, we had a full house this Monday, and are also trying to inform people across Greater Manchester of all the testing centres.
“We are being trained to do tests ourselves, so we can be flexible and go to places and test people, and have testing in places that are more accessible, not just clinics.”
The LGBT Foundation will be delivering safe sex packs throughout Greater Manchester venues all week, and workshops, for advice and demonstrations of everything involved during a test.
Jawad, said: “Every time someone gets tested for HIV, we are one step closer to ending the AIDS epidemic.
“Learning your HIV status opens the door to powerful HIV prevention and treatment options that could save your life or the life of someone you love.
“Get tested, stay in control and live your life.”
For more information on LGBT Foundation and Testing, click here.
And follow the hashtag #ImTesting.
Image courtesy of Wheeler Cowperthwaite, with thanks.